The Mid-Block Crossing

In Oregon, our laws state that every corner is a crosswalk. While some crosswalk locations are marked with traditional, wide, white painted lines, it is important for all of us to understand that even with no paint, a legal crossing exists at every corner or intersection. Crosswalk users can include people on foot as well as people using other forms of non-motorized transportation (wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboards, skates, scooters) and some forms of motorized transportation (power wheelchairs, personal mobility assistive devices). IMPORTANT: whenever entering a crosswalk, bicycles must “proceed at a walking pace” per Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 814.410. 

To enhance safety on roads with high traffic volumes and/or high speeds, “mid-block crossings” are used to improve safety and visibility and to provide easier access to destinations in key locations. In South Corvallis, there are four mid-block crossings that allow pedestrians to cross SE 3rd Street/Highway 99W. From north to south, they are at the following locations:

  1. Between First Alt Food Co-op and Papa’s Pizza
  2. Just north of SE Lily Avenue
  3. Just south of SE Mayberry Avenue
  4. North of SE Richland Avenue

These mid-block crossings have center refuge islands for added safety, and have pedestrian-activated, round, yellow, flashing lights. These crossings were installed around 2005 with funding from the Transportation Enhancement Program (TEA-21), funneled through ODOT to the City of Corvallis. In other parts of Corvallis there are mid-block crossings that are more modern, with a different style of flashing light called a rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB).

Drivers and pedestrians as well as other forms or traffic (bicyclists, skaters, scooter users) have questions about the use of these mid-block crossings. Here are some of the more common questions, and their answers.

Q: Can’t I just walk into a crosswalk because pedestrians have the right of way, especially at painted crosswalks?

A: This is a good question and not as simple to answer as you might think! In Oregon, there is a correct way to use a crosswalk and it involves more than one step. Prior to crossing the street, a person must indicate their intent to cross. To do this, they must extend “some part or extension of themselves onto the roadway.” This can be as simple as starting to step off the curb, or holding your hand forward over the curb, or taking one step off of the curb. At the same time, you must give traffic a chance to notice you and yield to you. The Oregon Revised Statute actually states that a person cannot enter the crosswalk at a speed that “constitutes an immediate hazard” (ORS 814.040). By this rationale, people on mobility devices (bikes, skates, etc) need to enter the crosswalk at a walking pace.

Q: When I want to cross and I push the button to activate the lights at the mid-block crossing, I cannot see the lights flashing. Why not?

A: The crossing was engineered this way on purpose. The lights do not give you the safety to cross the road, they only enhance awareness of the crosswalk location and your intent or desire to cross the road. You need to ensure the cars are stopping or stopped before you walk across the road, regardless of the lights. Press the button, indicate your intent to cross;, if cars are close, wait for them to stop or pass by, then proceed to cross. If the lights are malfunctioning, you may still use the crosswalk in the same fashion. Yellow flashing lights are in place to draw attention to potential hazards, but they do not change the fact that there is a painted crosswalk at the location – and if you demonstrate intent to cross, drivers are required to stop if it is safe for them to do so.

Q: Why can’t those lights turn from yellow to red, and make the drivers stop?

A: For the crossings in South Corvallis, the criteria for a red light are not met. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used. Flashing yellow lights have different criteria for their installation than a full red signal indication. For the crossings in South Corvallis, the MUTCD criteria for a red light are not met. Interestingly, research has shown that compliance with stopping at red lights used in some mid-block crossings has only slightly better stopping compliance than crossings with rapid, rectangular flashing beacons (RRFBs). All of the crossings in South Corvallis will be updated from their current round yellow flashers to the RRFBs, and the process for making this happen has already been started.

Q: Are cars on both sides of the road supposed to stop for me when I use the mid-block crosswalk?

A: For these locations in South Corvallis, the answer is “No.” Each of these mid-block crossings has a center island, also known as a pedestrian refuge. Per state law, if there is a pedestrian island, the traffic that is in the lanes closest to you must stop until you reach the center island. The traffic opposite the pedestrian island can remain in motion until you reach the island (ORS 811.028 section 3a). Once you are at the refuge, traffic on the other side must stop for you. There is an additional activation button on the center island, however the existing buttons are timed to allow you to cross all 4 lanes in one phase. If there are pedestrians on both sides of the street, wanting to cross in both directions, traffic must stop on both sides.

Q: If I am driving, when should I stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk?

A: Pedestrians invoke their right to cross when any part or extension of the pedestrian (body, cane, wheelchair, or bicycle) enters the crosswalk.  In other words, put a tiny part of yourself off the curb to signal your intentions to drivers. Drivers must stop if they are able. Pedestrians must not step off the curb if a vehicle is so close that it creates an immediate hazard.  ORS 811.028(4), 814.040(1)(a).

Q: When I have stopped my car for a pedestrian, how long should I remain stopped at the crosswalk?

A: Until the pedestrian passes the driver’s lane plus one further lane (ORS 811.028). In other words, if you are driving along SE 3rd Street and a pedestrian is in the crosswalk on your side of the street, you must stop and remain stopped until they reach the sidewalk or the center island.

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) can follow all laws and best practices, yet still encounter daily hazards. Corvallis Right of Way is a local nonprofit that strives to eliminate daily hazards through education about safety and the rights of all VRU forms of transportation. By fostering safer conditions, Corvallis Right of Way will serve all VRUs and encourage new ones.

Wendy Byrne is the president of Corvallis Right of Way (CROW).



Do What Counts

August 19, 2018 – last year’s Open Streets event – was a wonderful day for many reasons.  Open Streets was happening and took Corvallis by storm. Sunshine, great food, exciting activities, it was all happening! With so much to see and do I was on my feet all day, and didn’t realize I set an all-time personal record for steps in a day on my phone: 32,558 steps, 12.8 miles in one day.

My daily average in 2018 was 7,266 steps/day – so far in 2019, it is 8,195!  I’ve started keeping track somewhat . . . it’s a way to keep myself accountable for staying active every day. It’s funny, I didn’t even realize that keeping track of my steps is something that my phone automatically did until I was fiddling with the apps on my phone one day and stumbled across it. I was creeped out at first, but have since found a way to turn it into a positive for myself. I try to take advantage of free moments to get myself walking instead of sitting around. Why? It feels good for my body to get moving.  I’ve started to notice that I really do feel better when I’ve gotten some sort of exercise each day. My mind is more clear, my joints feel better . . . fresh air and movement do me a world of good!


The benefits for me are many.  A high step count means I got outside and took advantage of the fresh air. More and more, I’ve started to use walking as an opportunity to meditate and clear my mind of all of the trappings of everyday life.  Walking has become as much of a mental wellness activity as a physical one for me. Of course it’s also good for me to get exercise! I’m proud that I’m averaging almost 1,000 steps more per day than I did last year. That’s not by accident!

Open Streets Corvallis gives people the opportunity to get out and feel how small our community really is. I’m a big bike commuter, but something I’ve realized over the past couple of years is how quick and efficient walking can also be as a way of commuting.  Corvallis has an amazing network of sidewalks and bike lanes that give everyone the opportunity to travel and commute safely to almost anywhere you want to go.  Open Streets makes it even easier by removing all traffic and really turning the streets back over to the people! Walking or biking from one end of Open Streets to another gives everyone the chance to feel the streets, the short distance, and the joy that being active can be!

Open Streets Corvallis is all about being active, enjoying our amazing community, seeing friends, and having fun!  Get out there on August 18th in South Corvallis and maybe you too can set a personal record . . . can you beat me?

Mac Gillespie is in his third year representing Benton County Health Department as part of the Open Streets Corvallis planning team. He is on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, is actively involved in Garfield PTA, and is enthusiastic about supporting healthy and fun community activity.

Pedal Corvallis: Your Neighborhood Bikeshare

Have you ever seen a collection of white bikes around town and wondered what they were? These bikes are part of Pedal Corvallis, your neighborhood bikeshare system.

Pedal Corvallis was launched as a pilot in the summer of 2016 with six stations and a vision to help more people get where they need to go by bike. Initially, there was some hesitation around town about the concept of bikeshare. In a community where so many people already own their bike, who would want to rent one? 

As it turns out, many riders have discovered the joys of low-maintenance bicycling through Pedal Corvallis. Over 12,000 trips have been taken since the program launched, and so far this year there has been an average of over 100 rides each week. OSU students in particular have become a core group of Pedal riders, as most rides start or end at one of the campus stations. 

Bikeshare gives people the ability to bike even if they are unable to own their own bicycle. Pedal Corvallis is great for anyone who can’t afford a bike, doesn’t have a secure place to store one, or doesn’t want the hassle of bike maintenance. Pedal bikes are also useful for running a quick errand over lunch or for showing friends and family around town when they come to visit.

After three years of heavy use, some of our bikes are starting to show some wear and tear. This summer Corvallis will be getting a brand new fleet of bikeshare bikes, upgraded with some new features for a smoother ride. The new bikes will get here just in time for Open Streets!

Interested in learning more? On the day of Open Streets, you can try out bikeshare with a $6 credit using the code OPENSTREETS19! Join us for the group ride by meeting at one of the designated stations along the bike routes, or swing by our booth at Open Streets. We’ll be showing off the new bikes and Pedal staff will be available to answer all your questions. We hope to see you there!


Steph Nappa

Assistant Transportation Planner

Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments

1400 Queen Ave SE #201

Albany, OR 97322

541-924-8480

www.OCWCOG.org

Car-free in Corvallis

Twelve years ago, when my husband and I decided to look for our ideal community, we created a “Top 10 Features” list that included bike-friendly streets and a good bus system. We selected Corvallis as our new hometown, drove across the country, sold our car, and joined the growing numbers of Americans choosing to live car-free.

 

I’m 69 years old. But when I get on my bike and head off to downtown Corvallis or up to Bald Hill, I feel like I’m eight years old again. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with riding a bike, and, thanks to the extensive system of bike lanes and bike paths in Corvallis, it’s easy to get around town. I can go where cars can’t (my favorite route downtown is through the OSU campus and down the elm-lined path between 14th and 11th), and parking is rarely a problem. The cost savings are enormous: by AAA estimates, we’re saving nearly $9,000 annually by not owning a car.

annette and gigi

Aerobic exercise is built into my daily routine, and I’m far more connected to both the natural and human environment than I would be in a car – a benefit to both emotional and mental health. If I live to a ripe old age, I envision “graduating” to an ELF, a covered solar and pedal-powered three-wheeler.

When people find out that my bike is my primary mode of transportation, questions generally come up about carrying groceries, riding in the rain, or travelling out of town. My answers are simple:

  • For carrying groceries, our local bike shops sell baskets and panniers, and there is a variety of inexpensive and versatile carts that can be hitched to your bike. We carry our groceries and all kinds of things by bike.
  • For riding in the rain, it’s easy to find good rain gear at our local retail and thrift stores. On the rare occasions that the roads are covered with snow or ice, I ride the bus.
  • For out-of-town travel, we rely on the bus, train, rental cars, and carpooling opportunities. While riding the bus or train usually adds time to my trip, I appreciate the opportunity to slow down, relax, and leave the driving to someone else. Among my favorite out-of-town trips are the Coast-to-Valley Express to Newport and the Cascades train to Portland.

The ease and safety of traveling by bike are a matter of perspective and practice. I find it’s convenient to put on my helmet, hop on my bike, take the less-travelled side streets of Corvallis, and park my bike close to my destination. In terms of safety, I ride my bike just as I used to drive a car – defensively and by the rules of the road.

Biking, walking, skateboarding, and other forms of active transportation provide all of us a great opportunity to get to know the people and places in our community better. And Open Streets is an AMAZING way to experience the joys of being on our streets without relying on a car.  Music, food, games, and people of all ages engaged in joyful activities are all part of it. I hope to see you there!

Ciclovías – Inspiration and Beginnings

Open Streets Corvallis is part of a larger movement that finds its origins in the Ciclovías of Bogotá, Colombia. Since the mid 1970s, each Sunday, from 7 am to 2 pm, some of the Bogotá streets close down to motorcycles, cars, buses, and trucks, and open up to people walking, running, skating and biking, among other forms of non-motorized forms of transportation. A typical Sunday attracts 1.7 million people to these dedicated city streets. Eliza Barclays, writing for VOX, described eloquently the first time she experienced a Ciclovia Sunday in Bogotá:

Last summer, I walked from my hotel down a hill to Carrera Séptima, a wide avenue where men on Italian road bikes zoomed past teenagers on mountain bikes. Grannies on rusted cruisers glided alongside dog walkers. Together, they formed a torrent broken only when a few people periodically peeled off to sip papaya juice from a vendor on the sidewalk.

800px-Ciclovia-bogota

This vivid account coincides with my own experience having been to a Ciclovia Sunday in Bogotá in the early 2000s. Coming from Florida, where in many cases urban planners designed cities for cars and in doing so ignored people and denied the possibility of alternative forms of transportation, I was delighted to see not only people moving by their own means, but also people connecting with each other and building community through simple social interaction. I dreamed of that model for the Florida cities I knew. A few years later, visiting Santiago, Chile, I was surprised to find that the city had implemented the Ciclovía model in the form of their own CicloRecreoVía. On Sundays mornings, 40 kilometers of Santiago’s streets open up to individuals, couples, friends and entire families, strolling down the streets, jogging, biking and exercising in multiple ways. I could see happiness in people´s faces, in streets where during week days there is nothing but cars, buses, noise and smog.

Now Corvallis has joined the movement together with other cities in Oregon, the United States and the world. We are building a consciousness that places the human being at the center of the urban experience. But we are also building a strong community by providing a space, albeit only once a year, for people to express themselves, engage with each other, be physically active and enjoy a happy Sunday. Nothing can be simpler but at the same time nothing can be more valuable than that.

To learn about the Open Streets/Ciclovías movement, visit these online resources:

“Bogotá Closes its Streets on Sunday. Now Everyone Wants to Do it.” https://www.vox.com/2016/10/9/13017282/bogota-ciclovia-open-streets

Ciclovías, Bogotá, Colombia: http://www.streetfilms.org/ciclovia/

CicloRecreoVía, Santiago, Chile: http://www.ciclorecreovia.cl

Sundays Streets, Eugene: https://www.eugene-or.gov/1666/About

St Louis Open Streets, St Louis, Missouri: https://www.stlopenstreets.com

The Open Streets Project: http://openstreetsproject.org

Photo credit: By MacAllenBrothers – https://www.flickr.com/photos/micahmacallen/62525764/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=806389

Ricardo B. Contreras

Ricardo is an applied anthropologist, native of Chile and resident of Corvallis since 2014. He contributes to Open Streets Corvallis through the coordination of the initiative´s research and evaluation component. Ricardo is the CEO of Ethnographica Consulting and has an Instructor appointment with Anthropology at Oregon State University.